2001 costar Keir Dullea, speaking in 2001 video essay (1:58): “Working with Stanley Kubrick blew my mind. You just were aware that you were in the presence of genius.”
I’ve always felt that genius is an overused and certainly an imprecise term, because it’s not any kind of fixed or constant condition within this or that individual.
What genius is, basically, is profound receptivity…an open door or window through which genius-level stuff flashes from time to time. Sometimes it blows hot and stormy, sometimes it’s just a whisper or a tap on the shoulder, and sometimes it’s both. It’s mainly just something that certain people channel or become a conduit of, and no more than that. It’s mostly a kind of fearless electric current… a crackling quality in the mind and spirit.
I felt it when I had lunch at The Grill with Leonardo DiCaprio in the summer of ’93. He was 18 and 1/2, and I knew right away that he had that snap-crackle-pop going on inside. But you know who doesn’t have it? Anyone who says that this or that person is flat-out imbued with eternal genius. I’m sorry but no.
In a riff called “Genius Visits When it Wants To,” I attempted to explain the same thing to Ringo Starr. His statement that Peter Jackson was a “genius” irritated me as much as Dullea did in the 2001 video.
Some HE commenters were appalled and irate that I had the temerity to offer this knowledge in a tweet. “Hold moley…How dare you discuss the limits of genius with a famous ex-Beatle!” they seemed to be saying. “You’re just a journalist…it’s not your place! You need to be obsequious!”
What I said: “As you know, Ringo, genius comes and goes. Sometimes it ignores, and then it changes its mind and suddenly flies into the room, and it’s wonderful when that happens. But you don’t tell it what to do — when you’re lucky it tells you.”
Anyone who uses the word “genius” should be regarded askance. It’s in the same league as “awesome”, “amazing”, “totally” and “absolutely.”